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Text mock up Book of the Disquiet
Book of the Disquiet Book of the Disquiet in production in Belfast
Book of the Disquiet Book of the Disquiet

Belfast Black granite
Weight: 1 ton


A relief sculpture that may be exhibited against a wall or on the floor
Inscriptions taken from Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet are sandblasted on the granite
Inscription 1. on the left-hand side of the granite slab (text 152)
I am astounded whenever I finish something. Astounded and distressed. My perfectionist instinct should inhibit me from finishing; it should inhibit me from even beginning. But I get distracted and start doing something. What I achieve is not the product of my will but of my will’s surrender. I begin because I don’t have the strength to think; I finish because I don’t have the courage to quit. This book is my cowardice.
Inscription 2. on the right-hand side of the granite slab (text 12)
Everything stated or expressed by man is a note in the margin of a completely erased text. From what’s in the note we can extract the gist of what we must have been in the text, but there is always a doubt, and the possible meanings are many.

In these random impressions, and with no desire to be other than random, I indifferently narrate my factless autobiography, my lifeless history. These are my Confessions, and if in them I say nothing, it is because I have nothing to say.

My relief sculpture, BOOK OF THE DISQUIET brings homage to Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935). He is, by all accounts, one of the most significant authors of the 20th century. Because of his inspired use of heteronyms linked to characters of his own invention, it is often said that the four greatest Portuguese poets of modern times are Fernando Pessoa.

Apart from being absolutely hooked on Pessoa’s astonishing writings, there are a few other things about the man that I hold in high regard.

The first is that he was shaped by Africa. He lived in Durban for more than a third  of his life – he died at the age of 47. His stepfather, João  Miguel dos Santos Rosa, a  military officer, was the Portuguese consul in Durban and Pessoa spent his formative puberty years (11-14) during the Anglo-Boer War. Even though his ‘English/Portuguese’ status meant that he had no real part in the war, it impacted heavily upon his young mind. He attended the Durban High School school where he received his education in English, at the same time remaining true to his home language of Portuguese. This bilingual quandary often sets a challenge for the innovative thinker who has to be careful to employ the correct turn of phrase when having to ‘translate’ cogitation and writing into the alternative language. In some of my work, for example Abamfusa Lawula and Circle of Knowledge, this linguistic preponderance is a key factor. In Noli Turbare Circulos Meos I bring homage to Archimedes who spoke Greek, but uttered his last words in Latin.

Pessoa’s English skills were considerable, because, in his final year at school, he was awarded the Queen Victoria Memorial Prize for the best paper in English in South Africa.

The second aspect I find remarkable is Pessoa’s disregard for acclaim and excellence. He was a most unassuming man who kept to himself. He shunned societies, clubs and associations. He believed than life was at best an indecipherable and vain affair that provided superficial and dubious accomplishments. His deprecating manner resulted in him dying a virtually unknown writer. His anonymity is rivalled by Constantin Cavafy, the most celebrated Greek poet of the 20th century, who, like Pessoa, lived in Africa for much of his life and who died in obscurity in Alexandria, in Egypt. I bring homage to Constantin Cavavy in a relief sculpture entitle Cavafy’s Circle.

Pessoa said:
I have my crochet.
It dates from when I began to think.
Stitch on stitch forming a whole without a whole . . .
A cloth, and I don’t know if it’s for a garment or for nothing.
A soul, and I dont know if it’s for feeling or living

The Book of Disquiet, also called The Book Of Disquietude (Livro do Desassossego in Portuguese), published 50 years after his death, is one of the greatest works by Fernando Pessoa and embodies his view of the insignificance of life. This book, signed under the heteronym Bernardo Soares is a fragmentary lifetime project, left unedited by the author, who introduced it as a “factless autobiography.” Pessoa wrote under many heteronyms, personalities who pose as alternate selves of Pessoa himself. He seldom wrote under the orthonym Fernando Pessoa, his own correct name.

I chose a dense black granite, the most permanent material I could find, to venerate Pessoa’s view that life in general is overrated, transient and trivial, a clumsily written marginal note on a piece of paper destined for the refuse heap. I want to cast in stone that there is nothing to glamour and gloat about. With Pessoa “I wish to say nothing” in granite, “… because I have nothing to say.”

Willem Boshoff


Book: The Book of Disquiet On the English translation

Published for the first time 50 years after his death, this unique collection of short, aphoristic paragraphs comprises the "autobiography" of Bernardo Soares, one of Pessoa's alternate selves. Part intimate diary, part prose poetry, part descriptive narrative, captivatingly translated by Richard Zenith.

Fernando Pessoa was many writers in one. The Portuguese author attributed his work to literary alter egos that he called "heteronyms," each of which had a fully developed identity. When Pessoa died, he left behind a trunk filled with disorderly scraps of unpublished poems and unfinished works, among which was "The Book of Disquiet," Published for the first time some fifty years after his death, this unique collection of short, aphoristic paragraphs comprises the "autobiography" of Bernardo Soares, one of Pessoa's alternate selves. Part intimate diary, part prose poetry, part descriptive narrative, captivatingly translated by Richard Zenith, "The Book of Disquiet" is one of the greatest works of the twentieth century.

Edited and Translated with an Introduction by Richard Zenith

 The Book of Disquiet
(Redirected from The Book Of Disquietude)

The Book of Disquiet or The Book Of Disquietude (Livro do Desassossego in Portuguese), published posthumously, is one of the greatest works by Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), signed under the semi-heteronym Bernardo Soares. It is a fragmentary lifetime project, left unedited by the author, that introduced it as a «factless autobiography».


Still studied by the pessoan critics, who have different interpretations about the way the book should be organized, it was first published in Portuguese in 1982, 47 year after Pessoa's death (the author died also at 47, in 1935). Published in Spanish (1984), German (1985), Italian (1986), French (1988), etc.. In 1991 the Book had four English editions from different translators. The Book is a bestseller, especially in German (16 editions, from different translators and publishers).


Teresa Sobral Cunha considers that there are two Books Of Disquietude. According to the expert that organized along with Jacinto do Prado Coelho and Maria Aliete Galhoz the first edition of this book only edited in 1982, there are two authors of this book: Vicente Guedes, in a first phase (in the 10's and the 20's) and the aforementioned Bernardo Soares (late 20's and the 30's).

However, António Quadros considers that the first phase of the book belongs to Pessoa. The second phase, more personal and diary-like, is the one belonging to Bernardo Soares.

 George Steiner on The Book Of Disquiet

«The fragmentary, the incomplete is of the essence of Pessoa's spirit. The very kaleidoscope of voices within him, the breadth of his culture, the catholicity of his ironic sympathies - wonderfully echoed in Saramago's great novel about Ricardo Reis - inhibited the monumentalities, the self-satisfaction of completion. Hence the vast torso of Pessoa's Faust on which he laboured much of his life. Hence the fragmentary condition of The Book of Disquiet which contains material that predates 1913 and which Pessoa left open-ended at his death. As Adorno famously said, the finished work is, in our times and climate of anguish, a lie.

It was to Bernardo Soares that Pessoa ascribed his Book of Disquiet, first made available in English in a briefer version by Richard Zenith in 1991. The translation is at once penetrating and delicately observant of Pessoa's astute melancholy. What is this Livro do Desassossego? Neither 'commonplace book', nor 'sketchbook', nor 'florilegium' will do. Imagine a fusion of Coleridge's notebooks and marginalia, of Valery's philosophic diary and of Robert Musil's voluminous journal. Yet even such a hybrid does not correspond to the singularity of Pessoa's chronicle. Nor do we know what parts thereof, if any, he ever intended for publication in some revised format.[1] »


  • The Book of Disquietude, tr. Richard Zenith, Carcanet Press, 1991. ISBN 0-14-118304-7
  • The Book of Disquiet, tr. Iain Watson, Quartet Books, 1991. ISBN 0704301539
  • The Book of Disquiet, tr. Alfred Mac Adam, New York NY: Pantheon Books, 1991. ISBN 0679402349
  • The Book of Disquiet, tr. Margaret Jull Costa, London, New York: Serpent's Tail, 1991, ISBN 1852422041
  • Le Livre de l'Intranquillité de Bernardo Soares. Adapté par Antonio Tabucchi, sous la direction de Robert Bréchon e Eduardo Prado Coelho, introduction de Eduardo Louranço, traduction de Françoise Laye. Paris: Christian Bourgois Editeur, 1988. ISBN 2267005441
  • Das Buch der Unruhe das Hilfsbuchhalters Bernardo Soares, aus dem Portugiesischen übersetzt und mit einem Nachwort versehen von Georg Rudolf Lind. Zürich: Ammann, 1985. ISBN 3-250-10025-0
  • Livro do Desassossego por Bernardo Soares, 2 vol., prefácio e organização de Jacinto do Prado Coelho, recolha e transcrição dos textos de Maria Aliete Galhoz e Teresa Sobral Cunha, Lisboa: Ática, 1982, 287 p.


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